Australia’s Prime Minister and human rights issues in China.

Human Rights Review
Human Rights Review (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Australia’s Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard spoke at the Australia China Economic and Cooperation Trade Forum during her current trip to China and in her keynote speech she told her audience that the last 30 years the dual way trade with China has gone from 100 million dollars to 100  billion dollars. China is Australia’s largest trading partner. One quarter of Australia’s export is in China. There will be new mutual agreements on clean energy research as part of slowing down the scale of global warming. It will be however interesting to see how Australia will balance both its relationships with the US and China, with pending defence coöperation. Whilst the interests are not necessarily conflicting there could be a difficult issue if e.g South Korea would be vigorously defended by the US in case of a large-scale attack from North Korea.

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China being prosperous in the region is not only good for Australia but for the rest of the world as well. Still China is in a place to use its leverage on North Korea to dismantle nuclear weapons, as due to its increasing regional influence. Australia’s PM has been clearly balancing on mutual and constructive economic ties and the human right issues, but in a tone of common sense and reason, which is effective enough.

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The scope to improve human rights records in China is still much and this need is quite clear within the context of the  recent largest crack downs on human rights in China since the last 2 decades.

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Evidently there are tensions between Washington and Beijing. Obviously the recent crack down on dissidents in China needs to be viewed within the context of the spreading unrest within the Arab world. China however does not feel it has taken a step back on the issue of human rights and recognises the need for improvements, but has tightened up its control on activists , dissidents and religious freedom.

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The US – China human rights dialogue which starts today will be focussed on the main concerning values in which China and the US disagree. Those discussions take place during and after the worst Chinese crack down in years on dissidents and human right groups with mass detention as  a result. For the US applies as well that economic ties with China have been quite important since the ruling Communist Party in China opened up the doors to the market forces in the world. During the Chinese President’s State visit to the US in January, he acknowledged the global importance of human rights and reflected that “still a lot needs to be done in China”.  He mentioned as well: “>to take into account the different national circumstances when it comes to the universal value in human rights<“.

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Interesting the views on human rights are different in so far that China does not only view those rights as each being a personal right but in particular containing collective rights as well.  For instance the right of national independence, development and the right to subsistence. Poverty reduction is e.g. high on the national agenda of China, as part of this reason. Three universities have been recently implemented in China on the area of national human rights education and for the Chines police force there is a human rights manual close to completion.

Like the US did change some aspects of its culture towards human rights not so long ago in history, with law enforcement to be followed, – similar may happen in China.  If we look at the changes in the US in the 60-ties it is clear that certain dynamics need time, especially for the movement of social change amidst the protests against the Vietnam war.

Liberty and tolerance are at the base of improving records of human rights. To allow people to live in harmony in countries, liberty can’t be turned into licences of any kind encroaching on the rights of others. There is however a broader context. People are not really free when they are compromised to build up their lives with purpose. Positive freedom is the freedom as well to meet areas of personal potential. If we divine the distinction between the two aspects of freedom as both interpersonal liberty with certain restrictions and intrapersonal freedom, (being empowered to meet certain goals with value, nurtured as such within a person), – we are reaching somehow  the broader context of freedom and liberty.

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Liberty at State (Nation) level is neither a licence to kill in pointless war’s nor a licence to start “a war on terror” with over the years which followed inflicting mass casualties with both restricted civil liberties and gross compromises on human rights. The torture of prisoners by US military personnel at detentions centre’s in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba are the latest US examples of America’s conviction during the last administration that liberties best defender is irreleberality.There are most unfortunate examples how the US did work inside the borders of some foreign countries during the last decades and it is up to the US to evaluate its role in the world, which is clearly in the process of happening during the Obama administration. Whilst there is nothing against opposing a crack down on the terror of human right atrocities in Syria in the strongest possible  terms, – generally spoken a degree of humility of approaching the subject of human rights by those countries who have been culprits in the area of human rights abuses itself, – seems sensible and may create a more trustworthy partnership on this issue where extensive dialogues are required.

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If we look at human right abuses over the last 45 years it would seem unfair to say that China has worse records than the US itself. Where the US was involved in various war’s far outside its borders, with lots of human rights violations in numbers,  it wasted most of its financial resources  before even considering its own middle class and other disadvantaged groups, deserving basic healthcare, education and other rights. The budget deficit as it reached its current levels is the result of some faltering past administrations compromising as well on basic essential rights of its own citizens. being before one of the most wealthiest countries in the world.

Tolerance is a virtue of toleration, in particular an ingredient of liberty and freedom. Still members of major religions at many countries are unwilling to tolerate their opponents or their religious beliefs. There is today however more tolerance when it comes to the colour of skin, ethnic origins, sexuality and lifestyle choices. Generally the level of tolerance is proportionate to the degree of disapproval. The problem arises when tolerance is considered to be a virtue when certain practices or beliefs are morally wrong or even evil. In those cases of the paradox applies that if you can avoid certain things from happening, it is wrong not to do so.

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Human diversity makes both tolerance, liberty (within its boundaries) and respect for human rights more than virtues of the fittest or the richest, – it makes it a need for all our chances of survival on this planet. Hence the required direction of better understanding and implementing  human rights in all its dimensions,  should be encouraged all over the world. Most countries however have entirely different historical dynamics and widespread revolutions and turmoil have provided far too much bloodshed and tears in the past,  – which is the reason – besides preserving the core securities of countries – to carry out required reforms with both added value and respect for life.

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Creating harmony among plenty of differences is the cornerstone of tolerance, which is the virtue that makes it possible to replace the culture and politics of war by both the politics and culture of peace. It is a responsibility which respects life, human rights, diversity, democracy and the law enforcement a real democracy insists on. When people take their rights in their own hands, more often the loser is the law, not rarely at a cost of freedom. The problem of extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they often show intolerance. It is not about their cause, but what they both have to say about their opponents and what they do with their opponents.

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Increasing globalisation, swiftly evolving technology in terms of increasing worldwide mobility and communication, changing social patterns, increasing interdependence and integration  are the major marks of our time. Large scale migrations and displacements are also less positive marks of our time. Tolerance for this reason is more essential than ever before and should be the point of reference of any country in the world, within certain restrictions where this tolerance goes beyond the boundaries of respect for life or provokes violence. Escalating intolerance and violence are potentially menaces in every region.

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We need to keep the liberties of free men, not as a license to kill those who may think differently, but as an obligation to preserve harmony and tolerance among nations, where the principles of respect of life are not compromised. With this attitude some terror groups may put down their weapons.

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In ancient Greece people were not slaves of their passions, but the plants of reason were nurtured in people. It is with this meaning of “reason” in mind to say in fairness that it will be impossible to abolish all forms of human injustice. Injustice is part of life and part of life is that we can learn from it. Reason however only, – is restricted as it only tells us what the senses do.

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Neither reason nor faith are the sole entities of the divining moments in the future, they need to work together to embrace both the concept of more justice and tolerance.

In all corners of the earth  still applies  the command of Isaiah: to “undo the heavy burdens” (eventually) ” and to let the oppressed go free”.

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Respecting human rights will make Nations better places and people more committed to give their best endeavours.

This is a concept within reason for China as well.

Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard did raise the subject quite well as with better mutual understanding and coöperation on various other issues, the domain of our own values and perceptions on this issue may be well taken on board.

There is only really however one way forward, –  for all of us eventually:

—–>”To undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free!!!”<—-

Thank you!


Paul Alexander Wolf

Henry Kissinger – China as a Rising Power

Autralian PM discussing human rights in China.

Obama and Hu on Human Rights in China

US- China human rights hypocrisy

America’s human right rhetorics tarnished

Hu Jintao admits China has scope for improving human right records

China military 2011


8 responses to “Australia’s Prime Minister and human rights issues in China”

  1. Emdadul Haque Avatar

    Good post.
    Human rights must be honored by all governments.
    Right to information and right to express one’s opinions are two key elements which should be ensured in a country if she wants to establish human rights in true sense.
    If any country allows her citizens to enjoy human rights then indirectly the government immensely benefit from that as transparency casts positive impact in any society.
    China can fasten her economic growth if she liberalizes her human rights policy.

  2. Liviu Caliman Avatar

    “What could be the potential broader consensus on human rights issues, when dealing
    with various different countries & different historical backgrounds?”

    I think we need to see this in the context of human evolution, the evolution of our consciousness. It takes time to wake up and live according to higher moral/ethical standards. China experiences a human rights crisis right now, but overall is going to make progress. On the other hand, the self-declared human rights champion (US), has gone down badly in respect to human rights in recent years. The moral/ethical principles that would solve many problems in the world need to be embodied in all of us, and embedded in the social and political fabric in each country. When we will live in integrity with our values there will be no double standards. Let’s work for this.

  3. Paulf Wolf - Physician, FRACGP,DFFP Avatar
    Paulf Wolf – Physician, FRACGP,DFFP

    Thanks for the above and some personal emails from others!

    The last did include a note from one of the officials to the US regarding the Harvard University Press’s Black Book of Communism, indicating about 65 million people being killed in China under Communist regimes. Needless to say: an asthonishing figure, and not in comparison with what the US ever inflicted abroad if the figures are correct.

    It should be noted though that human rights in China are a dispute between both China and various other countries, for various reasons and as widespread documented. There are reports about China and China as well did develop reports on some countries, the US included.

    What we see e.g. in Lybia is a reflection of people standing up against their oppressive government as those forms of governments are inflated and do not acknowledge the changing dynamics in society. It goes even that far that the existence of those governments is defended with all avaiable means, gross massacres included. It seems due to happen in Syria as well, perhaps.

    Clearly this is neither the way for the future nor the way for civilistation. At some stage however countries will stand up against oppressive governments, which will create widespread destruction of human life’s and chaos, – and for sure not always the certainty that following governments learnt the lessons from the past, with history perhaps repeating itself.

    In order to sustain and continue stability for those countries maintaining a similar status quo at present, it would be wise to implement gradually changes and democratic reforms. at a scale desired eventually by the majority of the population. When people get this way at some stage the law enforcement they insist on, – the long term sustainability of such countries have a better prognosis with a reasonably educated and committed population, where poverty reduction, social justice, proper education and adequate healthcare are high on the national agenda.

    Whatever happened in the past, I do appreciate and value the wider definition of China regarding human rights, however potilical rights clearly included.

    On another note we need to embrace the future full of new opportunities and like we do not judge Germany now on what happened during the second world war, – neither can we continue to judge the US on what happened during the Bush administration (see Al Gore’s book: “Assault on reason” for his critical notes), – nor can we realistically continue to judge China on past events if they are going to demonstrate positive efforts in the future.

    It seems fair to judge countries on the broader concept and definition of human rights, indeed without double standards.

    Values and integrity are important at the personal level and as such Liviu Calimans reflected: >”Let’s work for this”<. – I agree.

    The question is what is morality in any given time or place? As Alfred North Whitehead in 1953 once said:" It is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike."

    Obviously this is not foolproof. The truth however this way is that we can get it as best as possible, – both in the best long-term stability interests of all countries and achieving far better records on human rights issues.

  4. Ellen Wright Avatar
    Ellen Wright

    I come from the perspective of the USA-as we all do, where we live colors our lives and perspectives. Life experiences will change that somewhat as will education to some extent. I have traveled abroad, worked with many people of many cultures and faiths, and seen many things since my childhood. I have friends that live and work in China/Mongolia. This discussion is not just theory to me-it is personal. It affects their lives and futures. The Chinese government could very easily jail, confiscate their belongings, or kick them out of the country today. If jailed, their families may never know what happened to them. Just because they hold USA citizenship holds no meaning. They could disappear.

    The Chinese nation is nominally communist. That is the political system. In point of fact, the economic system is socialist on the lower levels. At the lowest levels, it has gone back to the old barter, capitalistic system-and that does have the government’s approval now. Small family fields are coming back and people are getting fed in the countryside. My friends tell me that it is still bad in the cities in the winter. For the upper echelon people in the Party (caste system still exists-they just don’t like to talk about it), it is capitalism all the way. But don’t tell anybody. It is supposed to be all government investments-yada, yada,–but you should see the nice houses, the fancy cars, the couture fashion the women wear. It doesn’t take that many brain cells to figure this out. Chairman Mao would be displeased.

    Just because change happens (relatively speaking) pretty quickly in Western culture, it does not mean we can expect the same rate of change to occur in another quite different culture. To use a chemical analogy-a rate of diffusion in water will take place far more rapidly in a water based system than one in a gel based system. We allow and encourage citizens to communicate and experiment with different means of communication, technology, enterprise, commerce, trade, education, etc. They do not-they control everything. When the government controls things-you can’t get your hands on it to see what it does. You’re limited. It’s stifling.

    The wheels of change usually grind slowly in that part of the world for a very obvious reason-they have a very different value on human life than western culture does. They value the past lives of the ancestors far more highly than that of the present living person. It is a vastly different mindset. Unless and until we start taking that difference-we’re going nowhere talking to them.

    Also-for the first time in history, we’re talking to our banker. China owns the majority of our debt. We can’t AFFORD to anger them. Now there’s a nasty piece of pure business logic. I don’t remember what the numbers are, but it is substantial. No one likes it. Congress keeps trying to put limits on it. Nevertheless, it is there.

    I was pleased that the Obama administration was able to negotiate a NATO presence in Libya rather than a purely US involvement. This is how it should be. That is what that organization is for and how it should work. Germany will probably always have problems cooperating with anything France and Italy are in on. That’s just politics. They’ve been that way for centuries-long before the WW wars ever broke out. Why should they stop now?

  5. John R. Naugle Avatar

    Greetings from Atlanta: City of Peace.
    Hello Dr Wolf,
    Excellent article. You are such a deep thinker with a wonderful perspective. Our global family has greater degrees of hope for the Peace Millennium ahead because we have active and concerned brothers in our global family like you. I was very glad to receive notice of your article about China and have been thinking much about China lately. In fact, this wonderful article was just published in the New York Times:
    Eyeing the White House After Service in China

    Dr. Wolf, you have helped me develop a better perspective of the challenges that China faces, and how its transformation influences the whole world. I’m reminded of that famous quote by one of humanity’s most esteemed thinkers:
    “If we are to divine the future,
    we must study the past.”
    — Confucius

    Peace in…
    Atlanta: City of Peace, Globally and Space too.
    John R. Naugle
    Founder, President & CEO
    Atlanta: City of Peace, Inc. (ACP)

  6. Bill Adams Avatar

    Freedom, is a right given by the Gods and it is up to man to continue this right at a level in which is comfortable to them. Free market societies they should be free to market products and services that the mass public would purchase and use with in reason one must use common sense in all things – the old wise saying goes – Everything in moderation is as true now as it was then. We must have security to protect the public from those that would pray upon the weak and helpless, as well as to protect from harm from what ever it may be.
    I believe a strong security with a few laws is wise for a healthy free society.
    This is my view. Thank You for the chance to express it.

  7. michael anderson Avatar
    michael anderson

    Initiating fundamental universality to accountability, investigation, and prosecution of those that conspire, initiate, and conduct violations of human rights incl;uding the Convention Against Torture as a reult of their ratification of agreemens should and must permit the investigation and p;osecution of those governments by neutral indpendent entities that conduct torture as part of their internal and external policies.

    For those nations whose domestic and foreign policies justify or conduct torture and various violations of human rights, trade and other sanctions should be the first choice of the international community.

    Silence by the international community and the leaders of conscience around the world gives those whom conduct such draconian practices carte blanche immunity from accountability and justice.

    That silence must end.

  8. Piercarla Garusi Avatar
    Piercarla Garusi

    Great article, thank you.

    Your question was:

    ‘What could be the potential broader consensus on human rights issues, when dealing
    with various different countries & different historical backgrounds?’

    I do believe there are some universal human rights that transcend culture, religion, societal beliefs, etc. and I think the Planet is undergoing such shifts that the need to find universal human rights is even more urgent.

    But as Albert Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

    I think in order to understand what universal human rights might be, we need to go beyond the mind, beyond all beliefs and rules and shoulds, we need to reconnect with love. Love is not a sweet feeling, but it is the underlining current and power of all life. Where there is fear, there is obviously no love. Where there is love, there is no negativity and there is freedom. And to reconnect with love, we need to heal individually, and I believe there is a critical mass, which will bring about a global shift.